In a little-noticed but critical piece of news, the BBC reports that Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has warned the United States against striking terrorists from unmanned drones.
"My concern is that these drones, these Predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law," Alston told the BBC.
"The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons."
Alston, a professor at New York University, also has stated that the U.S. government and the CIA need to explain how such measures are legal in the first place. The previous explanation from the government clarified that the United States uses a framework to respond to unlawful killings (should they occur), and that it did not believe that the U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Human Rights Council had any role in relation to killings carried out during an armed conflict.
Alston rejected these arguments, calling them "untenable," and demanded that the United States furnish proof of the legality of its actions in wartime circumstances.
The weight of such a demand from a high-ranking U.N. official is astounding.
Rather than evaluate the United States' wartime actions against a terrorist entity that is oppressing millions of Afghanis and murdering thousands of civilians in indiscriminate bombings, the U.N. is forcing the United States to justify unmanned strikes against high ranking al-Qaida leaders.
Some drone attacks have missed the marks, and civilians tragically have been killed. However, they've also been among the most effective means of killing al-Qaida leaders and keeping the terrorist organization off balance.
It is difficult to see how this wouldn't give terrorists the upper hand, forcing the United States to pick between running afoul of the U.N. Human Rights Council, or endangering the lives of tens of thousands of troops and civilians.
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